How fentanyl is disguised

April 18, 2023

Fentanyl comes in a powder form from China, and much of that is sent to Mexico.

There, that powder is pressed into pills and made to look like pharmaceutical drugs — Xanax, oxycodone, hydrocodone, or even Adderall. 

Brianna Bohannan, a treatment center director at Applegate Recovery, said fentanyl is one of the most common drugs involved in overdoses because fentanyl pills are often made to look like these pharmaceutical drugs and street drugs. Many of fentanyl’s casualties are the result of people being completely unaware of what they are taking. 

“[Fentanyl] gets out in the streets and someone who doesn’t have a tolerance to opioids…they think they’re buying ecstasy,” Bohannan said. “That ecstasy they bought in the street has a trace amount of fentanyl that could be enough to kill that person.”

Graphic Jennifer Banh

Chavez said these fake pills come from many unverifiable sources and can pass for household or prescription drugs.  

“For a lot of individuals who might be familiar with those drugs and maybe have even been prescribed those drugs by their doctors…those things might be a familiar name to them,” Chavez said. “And ultimately, the Mexican drug trafficking cartels have sort of capitalized on that…so maybe somebody will be more inclined to try it.” 

However, Chavez says that you can still trust local pharmacies and doctors to provide you with the right medication. 

“We’ve had zero instances of where those end up being fentanyl,” Chavez said. “The people who were saying that it was the real thing…they weren’t doctors or medical professionals.”

Chavez says the threat is very present for everyone because of how widespread and accessible it is. 

“The affluence of the suburb is sort of irrelevant to these fake pills because it hits every demographic,” Chavez said. “It does not discriminate, and with the prices, it’s affordable.”

The retail prices of these pills can be as little as $10 and the wholesale prices down to $1. 


Lewisville Police Department  Sergeant Tim Stebbins works in the narcotics division.

Stebbins said that local fentanyl has been found mainly in the pressed pills and the pure powder form that comes from overseas. Fentanyl has been found in Percocet pills, a kind of pain reliever with the opioid oxycodone. 

These pills have recently become more popular, and Stebbins attributes this to media and songs popularizing these drugs.

 “They see stars and they see other people that can do those things,” Stebbins said. “I don’t think the kids realize that that’s not real life.”

While marijuana has become legalized in other states and the stigma surrounding it has shifted, deadlier drugs such as fentanyl can still be found in marijuana.

The police department fights drug usage among kids primarily through education and speaking to schools about the dangers. However, Stebbins says that education mainly focuses on instilling fear rather than informing them about the drugs. 

“I don’t think we explain well enough,” Stebbins said. “I think we rely on [students] being less informed to scare them off from trying to do it.”


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